FIA President Jean Todt and race director Charlie Whiting have written to F1 pass holders with some thoughts ahead of the new season, Whiting in particular going into some detail about how the FIA’s Race Control, which is under his direction, will manage the new adjustable rear wing, which he refers to as the DRS.
This is an interesting step for the FIA, who have not previously made a communication of this kind in this way and particularly with Whiting and Todt presented together as there have been some whispers during the second half of last season that factions within the FIA were looking to replace him, something the teams were very against.
“Proximity to the car in front will be detected before the straight on which the wing may be activated, ” he writes. “If the car behind is less than one second behind (as judged by the installed timing loops in the track) the driver will be told that his system is “armed”, however, he may only use it when he reaches the designated point on the following straight. This point is likely to be 600 metres before the braking point for the following corner, this may however be adjusted according to data gathered during testing and practice.
“There will be marks (lines) on the track to show the area where proximity is being detected and a line across the track at the point where the drivers whose system is armed may deploy it.
“Furthermore, the television broadcasters will be sent a signal each time a system is armed and this will be displayed to the viewers. ”
Race control is keen not to be seen as ‘interfering’ too much in the outcome of a battle or a race. This is sensitive ground and interestingly Whiting says that the idea was “a proposal the teams made to the FIA” – spelling out whose bright idea this was in the first place, perhaps in case it doesn’t work so well. Frankly it is unlikely to work all that well in Melbourne as the zone in question is the pits straight which isn’t very long and has a difficult corner to overtake into at the end of it. We will get a much better idea in Malaysia with its long straights, topped and tailed by slow corners.
From the simulation work done so far it appears that the difference between a car using the wing and one not using it is likely to be in the region of 10-12km/h at the end of the straight.
He adds that that “the distance over which the Drag Reduction System (DRS) may be used is going to be tuned with the intention of assisting the following driver, not guaranteeing him an overtaking manoeuvre.
Some software has been written to allow drivers to over ride the system in the event of a failure, but Whiting says the FIA will heavily punish a team if they do that when not authorised to do so. They may use part of a free practice session in Melbourne to evaluate the system.
He also adds a final note that scrutineers will be applying “more stringent load/deflection tests on the front wing and the front of the floor,” than last year. It will be very interesting to see how much chatter there is about that. McLaren was very publicly playing with a load sensing device in Barcelona, measuring the front wing flex. If you can make the wing flex, as Red Bull did last season, there are massive gains to be had.